Birth control is any method used to prevent pregnancy. Your gynecologist can provide information and advice about the various types of birth control, including:
- Barrier methods. Condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and contraceptive sponges.
- Hormonal methods. Birth control pills, as well as contraceptive implant (Implanon), contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera), the vaginal ring (NuvaRing), and contraceptive patch (Ortho Evra).
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs). Copper IUD (ParaGard) and the hormonal IUD (Mirena).
- Sterilization. Tubal ligation (having your “tubes tied”) or the permanent birth control procedures Essure and Adiana.
- Natural family planning. Rhythm, basal body temperature, and cervical mucus methods.
Approximately 12 million women in
the U.S. choose birth control pills.
Birth control pills are proven to prevent pregnancy when you take them correctly. They use estrogen or progestin hormones to alter your body’s natural menstrual cycle. Most pills are available in a 21-day or a 28-day pack. They’re often classified on the estrogen amount and/or the amount and progestin type.
Are there different types of birth control pills? The two main types are combination pills and progestin-only pills.
- Combination pills: Contain estrogen and progestin hormones. A majority of birth control pills are combination pills. When taken correctly, they prevent pregnancy and may also have other benefits including:
- Shorter, lighter, more regular, and less painful menstrual cycles
- Reduced menstrual migraine severity or frequency
- Reduced bleeding and pain associated with endometriosis and fibroids
- Cleared acne
- Lowered risk for ovarian and uterine cancer
- Lowered risk for pelvic inflammatory disease
- Improved bone density in the years just before menopause
- Progestin-only pills: More commonly prescribed if you’re a nursing mother, have a pre-existing risk for blood clots, or other conditions prevent you from taking estrogen.
Do birth control pills have side effects? Side effects of the pill include:
- Light bleeding or "spotting" between periods
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
Most side effects usually to go away in time, so gynecologists recommend staying with a pill for three to six months before you decide to discontinue use.
When you talk to your gynecologist about a birth control pill, ask:
- How effective is it?
- Will it affect the other medications you’re taking?
- Will it make you gain/lose weight?
- What time is best to take it each day?
- What are the risks?
Your doctor will work with you to find the
birth control method that best fits your needs.